Before being named Las Islas Filipinas or Philippines, our ancestors already established a functional society, with structure, norms, written script, and set of beliefs.
Today, all we have are bits and pieces of our pre-Hispanic history and our roots as people.
History buffs would find the National Museum a good choice to satisfy their curiosity. But the most precious artifacts that tell our country’s storied past can be found at an unlikely destination, the Calatagan Museum.
The museum exhibits artifacts that show Calatagan’s local history, which dates back to the 13th century.
Preserving our Past
Also known as the Museo de Enrique Zobel, the museum was originally an office for the charitable foundation named after businessman and philanthropist Enrique Zobel. It was transformed in 2013 into a repository of the family’s memorabilia and other historical pieces.
The museum’s primary goal is to aid the poor and disadvantaged through education, particularly on culture and the arts by putting considerable effort into the discovery and preservation of the remnants of precolonial history.
The foundation also holds programs to increase awareness and appreciation for Filipino culture. Some examples include tapping experts to discuss the various items in the museum and showcasing performances by the locals.
Rediscovering our Roots
The moment you enter the museum, you’ll see a map of Calatagan and a scale model of the Cape Santiago Lighthouse which used to be part of the family’s hacienda. Today, it’s outfitted with solar panels so it can continue to guide ships to shore.
You will also see pieces of Philippine history from the pre-Hispanic period obtained from excavating burial grounds around Calatagan. There are also artifacts from the 1800s and 1900s, such as ceramics, religious artifacts, heirlooms, and other items that the family used.
An assortment of items, also excavated from Calatagan, are also on display, including blades similar to the Filipino machete, but longer and forged for combat. There are also spears, shields, textiles, musical instruments, and various metallic boxes.
One of the most notable items is a clay pot, aptly named the Calatagan Pot. It is considered a national heritage due to its inscription in Baybayin or ancient Philippine script. The original, however, was sent to the National Museum, where several national artists have tried to decipher the text. There’s no uniform translation, but most agree that it is a form of prayer or ritual.
There are also unbroken anitos or ancestor relics made from limestone, which are considered rare finds.
Zobel Family Heirlooms
One section features items from the Zobel clan’s hacienda that gives us a glimpse of farming practices from the past century. One of these items include a karakiche, an elongated wooden gear-like equipment used to mill sugar. There’s also a horn-like item used for calling or dispersing cattle.
In another section are family heirlooms from the 1800s, such as rosaries and wood and ivory religious figures, which lost some parts because they were made into charms or anting-anting. A family tree also shows the links between the Zobel, Ayala, and Roxas families.
Taking the Journey
Through Calatagan’s Museo de Enrique Zobel, you can peer into the lives of our ancestors, free of charge. All it takes is a three to four-hour commute from Manila. But if you want, you’re always free to donate.
For public commuters, you can take the MRT to Taft, and catch a bus or van bound for Calatagan. When you reach the city proper, ride a tricycle to your destination. The whole trip will cost you around Php 400, one way. It is also advised to get the number of your tricycle driver as you might find it hard to get back to the city.
If you’re going by car, hit SLEX and take the Sta. Rosa Exit, and stay on the Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Road until the Silang Junction, where you turn right to Tagaytay-Nasugbu Road. At the Batangas-Cavite boundary, turn right to Nasugbu.
Turn right again at the Palico Junction, and finally, turn left at the Calatagan-Lian Highway. Stay on that road until you reach Calatagan town proper.
Museo de Enrique Zobel has health and safety protocols in place to protect locals and visitors alike. Everyone is expected to comply by wearing face masks, regularly washing their hands, and practicing physical distancing.
To check out up-to-date information regarding local destinations that are open and the safety protocols and requirements needed for each location, you may visit www.philippines.travel/safetrip or download the Travel Philippines app at app.philippines.travel or the Google Playstore.